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Baylor at Iowa State Preview and Prediction

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Baylor looks for three straight in Ames

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor (23-5, 10-5) takes on Iowa State (18-9, 10-5) at 3:00 on Saturday. The game is in Ames and airs on ESPN.

The Bears won the first matchup 65-63. Baylor had a terrible shooting night, and Iowa State made 10-of-22 3-point shots. But Baylor made enough plays down the stretch to nab another win against Iowa State.

The Cyclones are on a roll. They have won five of their last six, including a win in Lawrence. Before that run, Iowa State looked like a bubble team. They lost to Vanderbilt, and despite a good KenPom ranking, the rest of their resume was fairly weak. But an experienced team has made a big stride. This will be a huge test for Baylor.

Offense:

Baylor has a massive size advantage against Iowa State. The Cyclones do not play anyone taller than 6’8. With that size disadvantage, Baylor needs to be more effective finishing pick-and-rolls with the big man. Jo Lual-Acuil finished with 15 points and did a nice job slipping screens:

Terry Maston has been a monster against Iowa State. His mid-range jumper, as I’ve explored in the past, is a shot Iowa State’s defense is not designed to limit. Maston can slip screens and make shots at 18 feet. The Cyclones love to hard hedge and trap, which should leave him open. But Baylor didn’t do a good job finding roll men in that game.

The Bears did a nice job on the offensive glass. Iowa State ranks 243rd in defensive rebounding on KenPom. Baylor ranks 8th in offensive rebounding. It wasn’t surprising Baylor had 14 offensive rebounds. Even if Iowa State gets position, sometimes it’s irrelevant:

The Cyclones do a good job turning opponents over while not fouling. They rank 52nd in turnover percentage and 14th in defensive free throw rate on KenPom. Baylor’s biggest problem is turning it over. The Bears enter this contest at 280th in offensive turnover rate on KenPom. Iowa State will likely play high and pressure the ball. The Bears need to be able to score on opportunities like this:

Finally, expect Iowa State to immediately double low post entries. Baylor shot 3-of-17 from deep against the Cyclones. Baylor attempted 23 threes against Oklahoma on Tuesday. Iowa State would gladly take that number.

Defense

The Cyclones are led by senior point guard Monte Morris. He does not turn it over much, as he ranks 11th in turnover rate on KenPom. Morris can also find teammates and has stepped into a primary scoring role with the departure of Georges Niang.

Iowa State has some wonderful highs with their 3-point shooting. They beat Kansas in Lawrence with a school record 18 3-point makes. The Cyclones are 27th in 3-point offense on KenPom, but they are 119th in the percentage of shots from the perimeter. Baylor falls too in love with perimeter shots. The Cyclones seem to have trouble realizing who they love.

The Cyclones have several guys who can make shots. Matt Thomas is shooting 43% from the perimeter. Naz Mitrou-Long checks in at 39%. Then there’s Deonte Burton. He has been in and out of the All-Big 12 team on KenPom. He made 7-of-9 3-point shots against Kansas, including a huge shot in overtime:

Iowa State’s offense struggles in two areas. First, they are terrible at getting to the free throw line. They rank 345th in free throw rate on KenPom. Second, they don’t offensive rebound. With such a small lineup that hangs out on the perimeter, that’s not too surprising. With those two problems, Iowa State has a worse offense than they did in the Fred Hoiberg era. But they’re a lot better defensively.

Prediction:

Iowa State has played their best recently, while Baylor has seemingly played their worst. But a deeper look reveals Baylor has lost close road games and tough battles with Kansas. There are real reasons to worry about Baylor’s offense. There are real reasons to be convinced about Baylor’s defense.

Baylor has had Iowa State’s number lately. The Cyclones just don’t have the size of the Bears. Winning in Ames is difficult. Still, I think Baylor just has too much size and that overwhelms potential turnover problems. I’m guessing the matchup problem will outweigh the difficulty of playing in Ames. I’ll take Baylor 68-64.